Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Experiences of a First-Time ALA Attendee: The Long Version (because there can be no short…)


Honestly, that is the only way I can begin. This past weekend was filled with such fun, and camaraderie, and laughter, and happy tears. I couldn’t have imagined it being any better.

Michael and I arrived in Chicago just after lunch on Friday, and by Friday evening we were sitting with the wonderful Kirby Larson and her husband sharing spinach and artichoke dip and great conversation. Kirby and I work with the same brilliant editor, Michelle Poploff, and I am honored to call her my friend.

On Saturday we took the shuttle bus over to McCormick Place and traversed through the exhibit halls. Here is a picture of Every Day After on the shelf in the Random House booth:

It wasn’t long before I started bumping into folks from Twitter and fellow authors. I teared up when I spotted Cynthia Alaniz amidst a sea of strangers. We gave each other a big hug, and my husband was kind enough to take a picture of us for posterity:

Next came the ever-so-clever author of RUMP and fellow Lucky 13, Liesl Shurtliff. She signed my sons’ copy of her book, and they were super-excited to receive it!

At 11:00 Beverly Horowitz, VP and Publisher at Delacorte Press/RHCB, took a break from the booth and chatted with my husband and me for nearly an hour. She is a brilliant and lovely person. If you haven’t, I encourage you to watch this YouTube video in which Beverly moderates a panel on “Writing Dangerously”. It lasts an hour and a half, but it is fascinating, and the participating authors are phenomenal. Here is the summary:

How do children's and young adult authors approach controversial subjects, challenge convention, and confront the psychological risks of the creative process? Moderator Beverly Horowitz joins authors Adam Gidwitz, Gary Golio, Nora Raleigh Baskin, and Rita Williams-Garcia for a discussion on censorship and the risks in breaking boundaries.

On Saturday evening we took a short cab ride with Alison Cherry, author of RED, to Elizabeth Fama’s house for a Nerdy Book Club party. (Thank you for hosting, Beth!) OMGsh, it was the best time ever! Here is a list of other attendees with links to their respective websites. I hope I didn’t forget anyone. If I did, it’s only because I didn’t see you come and go.

*Niki Ohs Barnes
*Donalyn Miller
*Brian Wyzlic
*Beth Shaum
*Laura Given
*Jennifer Reed
*Katherine Sokolowski
*Jen Vincent
*Kathy Burnette
*Colby Sharp
*Sherry Gick
*Margie Myers-Culver
*John Schumacher
*Elisabeth Dahl
*Liesl Shurtliff
*Amy Timberlake (whom I didn’t get to meet, but I heard the excited chatter when she arrived)
*Stephanie Kuehn
*Kirby Larson

I mean, come on! You can read that list of names and know how awesome this was. Incredible.

When Sunday rolled around, Michael and I decided to forgo the exhibit halls for a leisurely lunch and a stroll to Navy Pier. That left us plenty of time to get ready for the event that was truly on everyone’s minds: the Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder Awards Banquet, aka the Oscars of children’s literature.

The evening was filled with fairytale magic. When you are in the room with Jon Klassen as he becomes choked up during his Caldecott acceptance speech, and Katherine Applegate as she is handed her Newbery Medal and immediately announces “I’m wearing this sucker to Target!”,

and THE Katherine Paterson as she eloquently (and at times humorously: “Rest perturbed spirit!”) accepts her Laura Ingalls Wilder Award,

you merely sit there in stunned silence. Unforgettable. This is one of those rare occasions when even words are not enough.

A few highlights:

*Riding the elevator down to the Newbery Banquet with none other than Gordon Korman. He is so nice.

*Running into fellow Lucky 13er Tim Federle, author of Better Nate Than Ever, at the Newbery Banquet and hearing him say “I love your dress!” It’s now official. The dress is a keeper.

*Attending the Random House cocktail party and standing in awe as Patricia MacLachlan passes by not six feet away from me.

*Realizing that one of the folks sitting at my Newbery Banquet table is Matt Phelan.

*Seeing Roger Sutton, editor-in-chief of The Horn Book, stroll past my table.

*Having Donalyn Miller introduce me to Teri Lesesne (aka Professor Nana), Ed Spicer, and Tom Angleberger all within ten minutes time.

My boys love their finger puppet Yoda, Tom!
Thank you!

*Meeting all the lovely people associated with the Nerdy Book Club and my fellow Lucky 13s. I miss my book-family all ready! <3

See you next year in Vegas? Here’s hoping.

Kirby stands on tippy-toes and I squat to get head-level.
Rather amusing.
See you soon, Kirby! <3


  1. Oh, I love this post! I've lived vicariously through everyone's blog posts, Facebook posts, and tweets. Sounds like you had a fabulous time and met some terrific people! I love the list of Nerdies! I'm going to NerdCamp next week in Michigan and can't wait! :-)I would LOVE to go to ALA 2014 and hope to see you there! Maybe you'll be making one of those speeches? ;-)

    1. Thank you, Holly! Wish you had been there. It was a fabulous time indeed. :-)

  2. It was wonderful to meet you and your husband, Laura!

    1. It was so wonderful to meet you too, Katherine! Thank you again for rescuing us by inviting us to sit at your table. I hope we meet again soon. <3

  3. Oh how I loved reading this! Your description of the evening as being filled with a fairy tale magic is absolutely perfect. I'm so happy I was able to be a part of it and that I was able to meet you. :)

    1. Thank you, Beth! It was a memorable night and weekend, and I'm so happy I was able to meet you too. :-)

  4. Laura, loved your recap of the ALA experience. Was following along via twitter; this makes me feel like I was there even more. Thanks for including the names of all the Nerdy Book Club members who were in attendance. So happy all of you could meet in person. Don't worry about the "long version": I thoroughly enjoyed your thorough report! :)

    1. Thank you, Allison! ALA Annual heads to Vegas next year. A bit closer for you, no? Perhaps you and I will meet there! *fingers crossed* :-)

  5. I'm a fellow Alabama writer (I live in Birmingham) and just wanted to say hi. I read about your debut novel in an email from Alabama Booksmith, and I'm always interested to hear about authors writing their first books--especially with young kids at home! I have two young girls and I write early in the mornings and at nap time. I'm looking forward to perusing your website and writings. I always try to glean inspiration where I can--anything to keep me plugging away at writing my own book. Best of luck to you!

  6. Hi Laura,
    It sounds like you had an AMAZING time at ALA. I can't wait to check out all the author links you posted. This sounds like the experience of a life time. So happy for you!
    Anita :-)